In our diet-focused society today - the idea of enjoying foods can sometimes be seen as bad or wrong. Diet culture tells us that food is meant to be portioned out, “clean” (whatever that even means), and perfect but no mention of satisfaction or enjoyment. Sometimes diets will even claim “and the food tastes good, too!” as if the idea of enjoying satisfying, yummy food comes secondary to its ability to help you lose weight or change your body size.
In contrast to diet culture, satisfaction is actually the touchstone for all of the Intuitive Eating principles. Each of the ten principles of Intuitive Eating connects back and promotes your ability to be able to discover the satisfaction factor to enjoy foods again. Sounds pretty amazing, right? We would have to agree! When we are able to feel satisfied with our meals it allows us to lead more fulfilling lives without feeling tied down to diet culture’s rules and expectations.
What is satisfaction and why is it important?
Satisfaction can be described as the fulfillment of one's wishes, expectations, or needs and the pleasure derived from this. Simply put - you get what you want and need. In terms of food, this means enjoying foods that honor your taste buds and your body.
As mentioned above, satisfaction is so important because it helps you understand your body on a deeper level. When we are able to assess and honor what sounds satisfying we are more likely to feel more fulfilled after the meal and be able to move on with our lives.
In contrast, if you are unable to find truly satisfying food at meals and snacks it will likely leave you feeling subpar and reaching for even more unsatisfying foods until you ultimately feel uncomfortably full and guilty. Sound familiar?
“But I’m afraid if I start eating foods that satisfy me, I won’t stop”.
If you’re thinking this - you are not alone. This is a common belief that you are the problem, when really it may just be the fact that you have restricted yourself from these foods for so long. We have diet culture and a myriad of rules that are placed around our intake to thank for that. However, the truth is that when you give yourself true permission to eat all foods, especially the satisfying ones, your preoccupation with these foods diminishes. You are able to more appropriately assess how these foods make you feel and eat them in an amount that feels good for you. However, this food freedom comes from you starting to incorporate these foods.
And it all starts with asking yourself one big question: what do I really want to eat?
While previous diets may have had all the rules set up for you - understanding satisfaction comes from you throwing those rules out the window and tuning into you. Let’s go over some questions to ask yourself when first starting out:
Tune in to your senses
Sensory Questions to Ask Yourself:
1. What taste sounds appealing?
Are you in the mood for something sweet, savory, salty, spicy, or sour? Imagine some foods you have had in the past that fall under these categories - how do they sound to you at this moment?
2. What texture sounds interesting?
Do you want something smooth, creamy, crunchy, chewy, crispy, crumbly, hard, soft, flaky, gooey, mushy, sticky, greasy, dry, moist, thick, thin, heavy, light, or lumpy? Imagine having a food that is a specific texture and think of how that would feel for you.
3. What aromas sound appealing to you?
The smell of specific foods can be very enticing and may bring back some joyful memories. Is there a specific aroma that you feel would be satisfying at this moment?
4. What temperature of food would be satisfying?
What temperature would satisfy you? Is it 100 degrees and you need something nice and cold or have you been traveling outside in the cold and would prefer a warm bowl of soup? Think about what temperature you would enjoy.
5. What about the appearance of the food?
As humans, we tend to eat with our eyes first. Is there something specific (a color or type of food) that would be visually appealing and appetizing for you at this moment?
6. How much do you need in terms of volume of sustenance?
Do you need something heavier and more sustaining? Maybe you have a long meeting and know that you will likely not be able to eat for another 4-6 hours. Or perhaps you are going out to dinner within the next few hours and would prefer something lighter that will be digested more quickly? There is no right or wrong answer but you can choose certain types of food based on your current needs.
7. Assess Distractions
Being distracted at mealtimes can take away from your experience and the satisfaction of eating. Try and notice what you typically do at mealtimes - are you watching TV? Reading a book? Talking with others? Lost in thought? Practice focusing on one or two sensory focal points to help bring you back to the meal in front of you.
8. Cultivate a Positive Eating Environment
It can be difficult to find satisfaction in food if you are eating in an environment that isn’t conducive to your needs. Try and set up an eating space that feels good and comfortable for you. Somewhere you can focus on your meal and enjoy every last bite without feeling like your mind is running in 100 different directions!
9. Assess Your Emotional State
Similar to cultivating a positive physical environment, it can be helpful to understand how you are feeling going into mealtimes. Are you stressed from school or work? Are there individuals arguing at mealtimes? Is there diet talk or conversations about your body happening during meal times? How you are feeling emotionally can impact your ability to find satisfaction in your food. It can be helpful to try and set boundaries around mealtimes. Understand who is helpful to have around and what type of environment is the most conducive to you feeling peaceful at meals.
Put together a plate that sounds satisfying to you and get comfortable. Take a few deep breaths and prepare for your eating experience. Assess your food from each one of your senses through a lens of curiosity: What does it look like? How does it smell? Sound? What is the mouthfeel like? How does it taste? Go through this process slowly, assessing each bite you take.
And let’s be real - we’re not expecting you to have 100% mindful meals 24/7. We’re human, we get it. Sometimes you have a “run out the door shove some food in your mouth kind of morning and we are there with you! You are not “doing intuitive eating wrong” if you don’t have a “perfect” meal where you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. That sounds more like the “Hunger Fullness Diet” and we’re not here for that! Instead, try to think of eating experiences as little mini opportunities to learn a bit more about yourself. Although the outcome may not always be what you want or expected, you can always learn something from them. Use this information to help you move towards becoming a more intuitive eater.
Discovering the satisfaction factor of eating is a full mind-body experience and allows you the freedom to pick just the right food for your taste buds. As you navigate your own Intuitive Eating journey - we want to be there to support you. Be sure to join our newsletter to stay up to date on all our practice has to offer you!